Thursday, January 9, 2014

Salem Girls Notch Solid Home Win Over Trinity

Neither team has much size, but Salem has more weapons and more experience and that was the difference as they defeated Trinity 53-45 on Wednesday night. Sophomore sensation Amanda Torres dropped a game-high 21 points, but she didn't get going until mid-2nd quarter. By then Trinity was down by 8 (19-11), and the Pioneers were fighting an uphill battle the rest of the way.

We only lost 3 seniors from last year" said first-year head coach Michaela Galvin, who was previously the JV coach at Pelham. "So far I'm happy with how they keep fighting and never give up. They're very committed and work well together."

Led by Torres, Trinity made a nice run in the 3rd quarter. Senior guard Lizzy Meehan hit a long 2-pointer and Torres got a couple of quick steals and layups to tie the game up 30-30. But Salem took over from there, as senior point guard and WPI recruit Brenna Blakslee had 12 of her team-high 17 points in the 2nd half and senior forward Amanda Bickford scored all 16 of her points in the 2nd half.

"Brenna sets the tone for us at practice too" explained Coach Galvin, who played her high school ball at Salem and in college at Plymouth State. "Her work ethic is outstanding."

It was 11-9 Salem after 1, as Meehan, Ashley Hill and Hope Willard all connected on early threes for Trinity. Salem went on an 8-2 run, which was capped by a layup to make it a 19-11 lead and force Trintiy head coach Matt Courchesne to call a timeout.

That's when Torres went to work, going hard to the rim with an array of dribble drive moves to either score or get to the line and get her team back in the game. You obviously want to make her beat you from the outside, but that is much more easily said than done as Torres is very tough off the dribble.

Rather than relying on one player however, Salem was running their sets and moving the ball well to maintain the lead. Bickford hit Elizabeth Twomey on a flex cut for a layup to put the Blue Devils up 21-15. Then Blakslee made a good pass ahead on the break to senior guard Emily Hickey for a layup. Both of these teams have good guard play, are led by their point guards (Torres and Blakslee) and both look to get out in transition to get easy baskets whenever possible.

Again Torres continued to get to the rim, making 1 of 2 FT's and then on a set play out of a timeout again gets to the line on a give-and-go play. Salem clings to a slim 23-19 lead at halftime.

Salem extends the lead to start the 3rd, as Bickford steps outside and buries a 3. Blakslee follows that with a pull-up jumper from just inside the foul line and Alexandra Sirmaian was hustling everywhere for loose balls.

Just when the Blue Devils were starting to pull away, Trinity made their run. Torres made another strong drive to the get to the line, Meehan hit a jumper. Then after Bickford answered with a turnaround jumper Torres got a couple quick steals and layups. We were all tied up 30-30 with 2:11 left in the 3rd quarter.

Again it was Bickford who answered with a jumper to put Salem back on top. Then Blakslee hit a long 2-pointer and just like that it was 34-30 Blue Devils. Sirmaian completes the 6-0 Salem run as she grabs a loose ball, drives to the rim while splitting 2 defenders and lays it in. Torres kept fighting, knifing her way to the rim for an athletic finish and it was 36-32 Salem heading to the 4th quarter.

In the 4th quarter Salem opened the game up, going on a 10-2 run to make it 50-38. The Blue Devils forced some big turnovers, as they got a steal then Hickey pushed it up the floor and dished it to Bickford for a layup. Then they got another steal, Blakslee went hard to the rim and got fouled. Then Torres went to the rim, hitting a tough leaner through contact but was called for an offensive foul (tough call). On the other end Blakslee hits another long jumper and Salem was really starting to click now.

Torres continued to make strong drives to the rim and get to the line, but Salem was up by too many points with too little time left. 5-foot-11 sophomore forward Kelly Lamarre comes off the bench and draws a charge. Salem hits their FT's down the stretch and holds on for the 53-45 win.

This could end up being a crucial game in determining playoff seeding and home court advantage come tournament time. Salem is now 1-1, while Trinity falls to 2-2 in D-I play.

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